From Asylum to School

In the early 1800s, some wealthy families in Hartford, Connecticut, pooled their resources to help found churches and other institutions for the public good. Among those institutions was the first permanent school for deaf children, the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb persons. In the language of the day, asylum meant a safe place, and dumb referred to individuals who did not speak with understandable speech. Because of changing word associations, asylum eventually gave way to institution, then school. Today the "Connecticut Asylum" is named the American School for the Deaf.


Mason F. Cogswell, a wealthy physician and a father in search of an education for his deaf daughter, Alice. He helped found the Connecticut Asylum.

American School for the Deaf


Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was a recently ordained Congregational minister when he met Cogswell's daughter, Alice, and became interested in educating deaf children.

American School for the Deaf


Laurent Clerc was brilliant deaf man, a teacher and former student at the Royal Institute for the Deaf in Paris . After traveling with Gallaudet to the United States, Clerc Trained instructors and taught students at the school.

American School for the Deaf, portrait of Laurent Clerc (detail), by Charles Willson Peale.



Cogswell, Gallaudet, and Clerc established and maintained the Institution that is now named the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford , Connecticut . It is the oldest of many residential schools that opened across the country. Generations of deaf people lived and learned together in these schools.

American School for the Deaf


| Home | Formation of a community | Language and Identity | Community Building | Awareness,Access and Change |

  Inquiries regarding this exhibition may be directed to Jean L. Bergey
Project Director: Jean L. Bergey
Office of the Provost: (202) 651-5635 V/TTY (202) 651-5704
VP (202) 250-2905
Email to :
Website Designer: Shelby Jia

Copyright Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington DC, 20002-3695